Lake George Mirror, June 7, 2019
Ginger Henry Kuenzel’s ‘Downtown’
Even within the smallest circumference, there is much to observe. In fact, the smaller the circumference, the richer the detail.
This is what Ginger Henry Kuenzel proves in her new book. “Downtown,” an affectionate portrait of what is purported to be small town life everywhere, but which is, in fact, a pretty accurate rendering of Hague, her hometown.
“Hometown” is not a word to be used lightly, though too often these days, that is how it is used, applied indiscriminately to any zip code one happens to find oneself in.
By even the most restrictive definition, Hague is Kuenzel’s hometown. There were Henrys on Lake George before there was a Sagamore hotel, and, in fact, one of her ancestors, James Buchanan Henry, once owned Green Island. The family is connected by birth and marriage to bishops, clerics, opera singers, composers and CIA agents. In an admirable act of courage, Ginger’s parents moved to the family’s summer place and raised their own family on Lake George, sending the children to the local schools and involving themselves with the intimate life of the community.
The arc outward being the path of re-entry, Kuenzel left Hague, experienced the big world – working in Munich, Germany, as well as Boston and New York City – and then returned, writing for The Chronicle of Glens Falls, serving on the Town Board and adding her shoulder wherever it was needed. Because the smaller the town, the greater number of roles everyone must play.
Every chapter of “Downtown” is, in fact, a self-contained essay about life in a summer town which, after Labor Day, reverts to its natives and those odd or intransigent enough to prefer a place where “the only restaurant closes in September… and even the general store closes for several months.”
Of course, that is when things get interesting – at the meetings of the zoning board, at the town dump, at the post office or on “craft nights,” when women bring the projects they never had quite enough time or focus to finish to each others’ homes, which they can now attack over glasses of wine and exchanges of information and observations (dismissed by some as “gossip.”)
“Downtown” is a book where year-round residents of Adirondack communities will find reflections of their own experience and summer visitors will learn what truly take place after the water is turned off, the boats are shrink-wrapped and the only trees with color are the tamaracks in the swale.
“Downtown” is available locally at Trees in Bolton Landing and at the Hague Market. It can also be ordered online at Amazon.com.
July 13, 2019
‘Downtown’ chronicles ADK life
HAGUE | Ginger Henry Kuenzel has proved that not only can you go home again, you can get a witty book out of it at the same time.
Her new collection of essays called “Downtown” track the happenings in a somewhat fictional Adirondack village that may or may not be based on her hometown of Hague, situated on the shores of northern Lake George.
Although she is from Hague, Kuenzel left multiple times —including a lengthy stint in Germany — always to return. Today, her job as a writer and translator allow her to remain in the North Country and work remotely.
Kuenzel said she and her friend Sally De Larm Rypkema would often sit and chat in one of Hague’s local gathering spots about local stories and their possibilities as grist for Adirondack literature. But in a small town there are no secrets.
“People really would come by and ask if we were writing a book,” Kuenzel said.
The townsfolk had two primary fears: One, that they themselves might be mentioned in the book, and two, that they wouldn’t. The fear of being left out seemed to cause the greatest concern.
“Downtown” is something of an edgier Lake Wobegon, where the natives will helpfully agree to house sit for the snowbirds who have gone south for the winter, keeping as much of an eye on the homeowners’ liquor cabinet as they do on the pipes.
If “Downtown” is indeed based on Hague, it could as easily apply to just about any small Adirondack town. The people fall into recognizable categories — the gossips, the trappers, the Mr. Fix-its, the guys sitting around arguing about the best way to drive in snow. So too is there a warm familiarity to the scenes, be they on the lake, on the post office or even the Adirondack dumps that were mesmerizing to small children in the pre-transfer-station days.
And, of course, small towns are equally notable for what they aren’t.
“We have no bowling alley, no gas station, no library, no stores,” Kuenzel writes. “We who stay in Downtown when all the others leave are thus completely on our own for entertainment. Fortunately, that’s not a problem.”
And part of the entertainment of a small town is telling stories and perhaps, from time to time, embellishing them just a hair. It’s a genre Kuenzel has obvious fun with, and the stories are simultaneously authentic and, perhaps, artfully tweaked.
“Downtown” is available in area bookstores and on Amazon. Kuenzel will be signing books with several other authors July 19 at the Uptown in Hague from 5 to 8 p.m.
"Downtown" is a collection of stories about the colorful and quirky people that inhabit small rural towns, their hilarious antics in pursuit of the antidote to wintertime boredom, and the nonsensical governance of what constitutes small town politics.
While the hustle and bustle of urban life often homogenizes the individuals who live there, it's hard for the crazy people to hide in a town of less than 500 residents – especially when they are all just a little nuts. It's a quick and fun read that captures how great and entertaining small town life can be, and has some really fun suggestions on how to beat the winter blues no matter where you live. Time to slow down and laugh a little.